Leading rugby figures have expressed doubt about the prospect of South African joining an expanded Six Nations championship.
The Daily Mail reported that talks about adding South Africa as a seventh team to the European competition have been taking place for some time, and there was “a sense of inevitability” among stakeholders that it would happen. According to the report, South Africa would make the move in 2024, after the next Rugby World Cup.
The mooted move would mean South Africa abandoning the Southern Hemisphere’s annual Rugby Championship competition, where it currently competes with New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Mark Robinson has dismissed the report, pointing out that SA Rugby, via its membership of SANZAAR, the grouping of the major Southern Hemisphere rugby unions, was bound to media rights deals covering SANZAAR competitions until the end of 2025.
England coach Eddie Jones was also not impressed with the suggested move.
“It’s called the greatest rugby tournament in the world and I think it is. So why would you want to add other teams that are going to decrease the level of competition?” he said, reported by Irish public-service broadcaster RTE. “I can only talk from experience. Super Rugby was the golden egg of rugby – brilliant, 12 teams, competitive. As soon as it had gone to 14 and 15, it had lost its allure.”
A move by South Africa to the Six Nations would, in the short-term at least, significantly increase the competition’s commercial value and significantly reduce the commercial value of the Rugby Championship.
As well as the potential for increased income, one of the major reasons for the move would be that the Six Nations is played in much more favourable time zones for South African players and TV audiences than the Rugby Championship.